Words of Wisdom: Diversify to Succeed

REALTOR® Emeritus L. Harrell Pendleton attributes his successful, five-decade career to hard work and intrepid investing. Find out more about how he kept his business strong in good times and bad.

How did you get started in real estate?


PENDLETON: I got into it by accident. I was working for a local movie theater as a projectionist and part-time manager in the late 1940s. I was in my early 20s and had just returned from a tour of duty with the army in Japan. But between shifts at the movie house, I helped out my stepfather, W.S. Holdway, with his real estate business. I soon realized that real estate offered a lot more potential than the movie theater business. I received my real estate license in 1952 and worked with my stepfather, who really was a father to me, for 26 years. I then ran the business myself.


You experienced various housing downturns over 50 years. What strategies did you use to  get through them? 


PENDLETON: When times were hard, we provided loans to buyers who couldn’t qualify for the mortgages they needed or couldn’t afford the down payments. The banks might only loan them 60 percent of what they needed, so we’d come up with the rest, and we charged buyers a full 6 percent interest. We thought that was a pretty good rate. We were like our own little bank. This was common in the 1970s. Without us, a lot of people with small-town jobs would not have had the opportunity to own a house.


I also did appraisals, so when people refinanced, they needed a new appraisal. That got us through a lot of periods when sales were down. I was also asked to testify in court many times as an expert on property values and right-of-way issues.


What did you enjoy most about the business? 


PENDLETON: I liked being my own boss. But we never had more than five associates in the office. We didn’t want to grow any larger. We had so much to do as it was. I worked night and day for seven days a week when I was doing appraisal reports. The banks kept me busy, but I never felt pressure to inflate an appraisal. They were ethical businesses.


What advice do you have for today’s struggling practitioners? 


PENDLETON: I do feel sorry for people today who are having a hard time. It’s important to do as many different kinds of things as you can with your business. In addition to sales, I did development and construction, appraisals, and helped out with auctions. In my career, I did 16,000 appraisals for the banks, renovated 160 homes, and built 92 new ones.


For those that have the money to keep operating, I’d encourage people to buy property, as well as encourage their clients to buy. Real estate seems like a more reliable investment now than the stock market. You get something you can touch, compared to buying shares from Wall Street.


So you’re a strong believer in real estate as an investment? 


PENDLETON: Yes. I was never afraid to invest in properties. I would often buy homes at low prices and hold on to them until the right person came along to sell them to. People are afraid of their own judgments, and they shouldn’t be. I figured out how to do this, and I don’t even have any college degrees. I wasn’t trying to be Donald Trump. I just wanted to have a good, comfortable living.


Are you still an active real estate investor? 


PENDLETON: I may buy the house next door to me if we can get together on a price.

Source: www.realtor.org


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